Congratulations to the newly appointed President of the Casting Guild of Australia, Thea McLeod! We are honored to speak with her about how she got her start in entertainment, the type of stories she is passionate about telling through her work and some exciting new initiatives the CGA will be launching to create further opportunities for actors and nurture up-and-coming casting directors.
Tell us about who you are and what you do.
I’m an Australian-based film and television casting director with over 20 years of experience. I’ve also recently taken on the role of President of the Casting Guild of Australia (CGA). As a casting director, I’m very passionate about discovering and nurturing up-and-coming talent in Australia and beyond. Day-to-day, you might find me putting together lists of casting ideas for a production, negotiating with agents and producers, reading scripts or auditioning actors in the room. I absolutely adore seeing the scripts come to life and the characters bounce off the page. I also enjoy producing in addition to casting so my days offer a lot of variety, which keeps things fun and exciting.
M4M: Measure for Measure is a professional highlight of mine. M4M is a feature film that I cast and produced that received nominations for Best Lead Actor, as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress in the 2020 AACTA awards. Pawno is another feature film I worked on prior to M4M, which received 18 awards internationally, including the grand jury prize for best picture at the Cannes Cinema des Antipodes in 2016. However, the major production that I’m often recognised for is the iconic Aussie TV series Neighbours. I have had the privilege of casting Neighbours for the past 12 years. Casting a fast-paced production like Neighbours has been absolutely amazing! Neighbours has allowed me to discover so many extraordinary actors over the years. It has been brilliant to watch their careers grow both here in Australia and internationally.
How did you start working in the industry?
I started out as a child actor and then began producing theatre in my early 20s. While working in the Melbourne entertainment industry, I fell in love with a Scottish actor Paul Ireland. Paul was playing Renton in the legendary play Trainspotting, which had just wrapped in the West End and begun touring Australia. I moved to London with Paul to follow my dreams, where I continued to act in TV and film. In London, I was lucky to start working with the great casting director Sue Jones, who taught me about the business. Casting was an instant fit for me. I love working with so many fantastic actors, directors and producers, and helping put together the perfect cast for productions. I was ecstatic to have discovered a career in something I absolutely loved, so I set up my own casting company. I spent eleven great years in the UK and then in 2008 I moved back home to Australia with my family to continue my career as a casting director. I was lucky to jump straight into casting a comedy series with the legendary director Ted Emery. Shortly after that, I cast a feature film called Summa Coda starring Jacqui Weaver and went on to cast numerous film and tv productions from there. It has been quite the journey but I’ve absolutely loved every bit of it.
What type of stories are you passionate about telling through your work?
I love telling stories that are real and hard-hitting. A slice of life — whether the script is filled with joy, laugher and love, or a story that is dark, painful and confronting. If a production can make you laugh and cry and reflect on your own life, I think that’s really special because the audience has been touched. It’s beautiful when stories are powerful enough to make an impact in the world and generate change.
What are you most excited to tackle as the newly elected President of CGA?
We are currently working on several initiatives that I’m very excited about. A central goal the CGA continues to focus on is inclusivity in the production industries. We are passionate about creating further opportunities for actors and discovering the industry’s rising stars. Nurturing up-and-coming casting directors and supporting all guild members is another key priority. We aim to ensure that people who want to learn the skills of a casting director can access this information.
What are you looking forward to in the industry in the coming year and beyond?
I look forward to seeing casting directors increasingly recognised for their contribution to the entertainment industry. Australia is making great strides with ceremonies such as the AACTA Awards introducing a casting award. Thank you to Casting Networks who made that possible by sponsoring the award. It’s great that ceremonies like the AACTA, Emmy and BAFTA Awards now acknowledge the craft of casting. I look forward to seeing more progress in the global representation of casting directors, especially those from underrepresented communities. Furthermore, I’d love to educate people around the world about what we do as casting directors. To achieve this, the CGA continues to collaborate with guilds internationally, including the Casting Society (CSA).